SCIENCE ARTICLE Fielding a current idea: exploring the public health impact of electromagnetic radiation

Fielding a current idea: exploring the public health impact of electromagnetic radiation

Stephen J. Genuis
Faculty of Medicine, University of Alberta, 2935–66 Street, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6K 4C1
Received 26 May 2006; received in revised form 12 January 2007; accepted 2 April 2007

‘A new scientific truth does not triumph by
convincing its opponents and making them see the
light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.’ Max Planck (Nobel Prize Winner—Physics).

Several publications in the scientific literature have raised concern about the individual and public health impact of adverse non-ionizing radiation (a-NIR) from electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure emanating from certain power,
electrical and wireless devices commonly found in the home, workplace, school and community. Despite the many challenges in establishing irrefutable scientific proof of harm and the various gaps in elucidating the precise mechanisms of harm, epidemiological analyses continue to suggest considerable potential for injury and affliction as a result of a-NIR exposure. As environmental health has not been
emphasized in medical education, some clinicians are not fully aware of possible EMF-related health problems and, as a result, manifestations of a-NIR may remain misdiagnosed and ineffectually managed. It is important for physicians and public health officials to be aware of the fundamental science and clinical implications of EMF exposure. A review of the scientific literature relating to the link between electromagnetic radiation and human health, several public health recommendations,
and four case histories are presented for consideration.

[& 2007 The Royal Institute of Public Health. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights

It was only a few decades ago when individuals
queued up in shoe shops and malls to view their metatarsals under fluoroscopy machines; with
expert reassurance that such a novelty was
perfectly safe, the increased cancer rates in
participants came as a surprise. While there is
recognition of the potential cellular and tissue
damage associated with exposure to ionizing
radiation from X-rays, electromagnetic radiation
(EMR) emanating from power lines, mobile phones,
common electrical devices and some types of
machinery has also begun to attract recent attention as a potential health hazard. Conflicting information is found in the medical literature;while some reports dismiss the alleged risk associated

with EMR, various international bodies
including the World Health Organization1 and the
International Agency for Research on Cancer2
(IARC) have called for intense investigation of the impact of non-ionizing radiation (NIR) on human health in response to mounting research suggesting a link between adverse EMR and various afflictions including reproductive dysfunction, cancer and central nervous system (CNS) disorders.


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